Environmental groups slam Plan Nord’s land protection scheme

“There’s no real intent…to stop industrial development on 50 per cent of the territory”


Environmental groups in southern Quebec have stepped up their criticism of Quebec’s Plan Nord, while Premier Jean Charest travels Europe to tout his government’s development plan for Nunavik and other lands above the 49th parallel in Quebec.

The increasing criticism follow statements from two Quebec officials last week at hearings held in Montreal on Plan Nord.

Environment minister Pierre Arcand and his deputy minister Léopold Gaudreau appeared to say that forestry and mining would be allowed in the 50 per cent of northern lands, which Quebec says it will protect from industrial development as parks, park reserves or protected areas by 2035.

“There’s no real intent on the part of the government to stop industrial development on 50 per cent of the territory,” said Christian Simard, the executive director of the group Nature Quebec.

Charest’s defense of how his Plan Nord scheme will protect lands from industrial development continued to fuel the environmental activists’ outrage.

In Spain now, after visiting France to sign deals on various projects connected with Plan Nord, Charest said his government wants to have 17 per cent of the planned protected areas set aside by 2015.

But Nature Quebec and Greenpeace maintain only an estimated 12 per cent of northern Quebec’s protected areas will meet international protection standards by that date.

Many in Nunavik have questioned Quebec’s move to protect lands there, because it’s been hesitant to expand the borders of the planned Tursujuq provincial park to include the entire Nastapoka watershed.

The Nastapoka, home to salmon and rare freshwater seals, also has an enormous potential for hydro-electric power production.

When drawing the boundaries of its fourth proposed provincial park, Quebec left all active mining claims outside the park’s boundaries.

In Europe, Charest’s message was that carrying out a plan as large as Plan Nord will require outside resources and money — a message similar to the one he brought to Japan and China in August.

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